Guest Post from Colette Ní Eachtarn (a friend who doesn’t have a blog… yet. Her words need to be heard)
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Day on the ground in ‘The Jungle‘, Calais, France.

Day 1 – up at 6.45am and home at 6.45pm! Was a long but really worthwhile day full of hard work, co-operation and smiles.
We spent the day sorting the warehouse – with a group of about 100 people – all different nationalities/religions/colour we all tucked in. Our Irish Trucks came quite early on and from there on in the day was named ‘Irish Day’. The reaction to our donations was amazing – they were all REALLY blown away- I think all us Irish were extremely proud!! They’d haven’t ever received such a massive donation as well as such an organised one.

The building team were hoping to hit the ground running but because of delays all around the camp this morning with police and everything else it just wasn’t possible. So tomorrow will be a heavy day for all our builders but I’ve never met such an enthusiastic, energetic, grounded group – they’re truly great!

Our Medical team also got out and about today in camp – they’re all just finding their feet too but they seem to have received an amazing welcome and a lot of patients – they too came back quiet positive with a much better idea of what’s actually needed moving forward over the coming days.

I visited the camp ‘the jungle’ just for a few minutes this evening – we went for a walk up through one section – it at first seemed a bit chaotic but when the layout was explained it seemed quite clever – we walked up as far as one of the churches the refugees had built – the residents were welcoming and smiling and going about their business.

It’s VERY basic – there was, from what I could see, one water point area with a few taps – but I didn’t see any other type of facility – toilets, showers etc – but again I was only in one section of the camp for just a few minutes.

I do remember thinking how it was such a beautiful day and how everything looks better in the sunshine – I absolutely dread to think of when the rain and cold hits in a few weeks – the cracks in camp will be huge and quite visible immediately I should think. The tarps and tents these lovely people are living in will NOT suffice – they will be very cold and I suspect very wet in no time. The land I’m thinking, from just seeing the large pools all around the water points, will get soggy and flooded making everything even that bit harder.

The people here are such amazing, resilient, resourceful people – they’ve come together forming close knit communities. They are eager to welcome and chat with people. Different stories have been circulating through the day of some volunteers experiences within the camp – when it comes to the residents of ‘the jungle’ all the stories are positive. It’s truly amazing in light of what they’ve gone through and are going through they still smile and welcome strangers with such huge open hearts – but that seems to be a running theme on this trip – everywhere you turn there’s nothing but open hearts!

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Colette Ní Eachtarn visited The Jungle In France with the Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity

If you wish to help this effort please do so by:

  • sending whatever you can to their fund raising site GoFundMe
  • sharing widely on your social media streams
  • talking with your friends about the needs of the people who live at these camps, we all need to change how we think about this situation

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